You know how it goes: You like to cook, but you’re busy. Like, so busy you fantasize about being hospitalized for exhaustion. You have limited time to discover a yummy new recipe but when you do, whoa—it’s like finding a Prada bag at a yard sale.
You bask in the acclaim your meal earns, and proceed to make that golden dish three times a week for the next fiscal quarter as your taste buds lapse into a coma and your significant other/family begs for mercy—and variety.
In my house, cries of horror in the form of “Not Giada’s Pesto again!” rang out as I repeatedly approached the table with a heaping bowl of steaming basil-y pasta that had become my fallback weeknight meal.
I am not alone in this predicament. Most of us need a little help in the cooking inspo department. Hence: The meal kit phenom. A box turns up on your doorstep. Someone has relieved your poor, exhausted brain of the task of finding a recipe and has kindly packed all the pre-measured ingredients you need. No clicking through online recipes and comments. No running to the store for a bunch of cilantro. It’s all done for you.
Most of us need a little help in the cooking inspo department. Hence: The meal kit phenom.
For the past several years, to avoid the dreaded Giada’s Pesto scenario, I had been happily getting Blue Apron® boxes delivered to my door. But as burnout set in, I decided to see what else was out there. The category has grown tremendously with Hello Fresh®, Plated®, Purple Carrot®, Martha (Stewart) & Marley Spoon®, and many more. I settled on giving Sun Basket® a go. It touts itself as having loads of choice (Paleo, Lean ‘n Mean, Vegan, and more) and being organic.
Here’s what I learned when I tried the kits in quick succession with my college-age kids and husband joining me to sample the results:
Sun Basket: My three meals from Sun Basket, each of which serves four, came in two jumbo cartons. I felt as if I should strap on a kidney belt as I cleaned-and-jerked the boxes from my stoop into the kitchen. I was relieved that all of the packaging is 100 percent recyclable and/or compostable. Their cold packs are clearly labeled as being a recyclable plastic bag filled with 98 percent water and 2 percent non-GMO cotton. Who knew?
Sun Basket’s cold packs are clearly labeled as being a recyclable plastic bag filled with 98 percent water and 2 percent non-GMO cotton
Blue Apron: The company sent me two 4-person meals in a one compact carton. Blue Apron has a program that allows you to ship back the packaging for free, but that involves more work on the customer’s part, downloading labels and the like. And while the website tells you how to recycle the packaging, the items themselves are unmarked, making them seem mysterious and frankly less green.
Verdict: I definitely felt that Sun Basket was more proactive and successful in its commitment to the planet. Blue Apron may have similar practices, but they need to do a better job of communicating them.
Sun Basket: Meals cost $11.49 per person, delivery costs $5.99 per week, though the first week of delivery is free.
Blue Apron: For two people, meals are $9.99 per meal per person. For four, meals are $8.74 per meal per person. Shipping is included.
Verdict: Do the 2nd-grade math, and Blue Apron is the winner.
Sun Basket: Produce is organic and non-GMO, period. Meat is humanely raised and antibiotic and hormone free. Seafood is approved by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Watch List.
Blue Apron: Meals include sustainable seafood, and the company says their farmers and ranchers are dedicated to avoiding hormones or antibiotics (they’ve partnered with the renowned Niman Ranch for poultry and meat, for instance). They have a non-GMO policy, and say “many” of their ingredients are USDA-certified as organic.
Verdict: Both are good citizens, but Sun Basket’s “all organic” aspect won me over.
Sun Basket: I selected my weekly box from over 10 options, which were tagged in all kinds of ways: classic, chef’s choice, Paleo, soy-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, lean and clean, low-calorie, and vegetarian.
Blue Apron introduced me to new techniques and tastes— and I am grateful.
Blue Apron: For my Family Plan, I picked two recipes from four options, but I didn’t see an all- vegetarian plan. Some meals are called Quick Prep, indicating under a half an hour; others take closer to 40 minutes.
Verdict: Sun Basket offers more customization.
Sun Basket: The Steak and Salad Paleo meal I made clocked in at 680 calories per serving (whaaa? Doesn’t that seem high?). But the low-calorie options—like Italian Sausages with Sweet Peppers and Baby Kale—come in at 450 calories.
Blue Apron: The dishes I made were all around the 600-something calories per serving mark.
Verdict: Sun Basket gives you more options and control.
Sun Basket: When they tell you a meal will be ready in 20 minutes, they aren’t kidding. For instance, my Steak Romesco and Salad meal amounted to dumping baby kale, olives, and artichoke hearts into a bowl and adding dressing (NO knifework at all), searing some steaks on top of the stove, and adding their jarred sauce. Fast, easy. But I missed some of the work, I have to admit. I would have liked to have made the sauce and seen what goes into Romesco.
Blue Apron: Having been a customer for a while, I know that every recipe starts with “wash and dry the produce.” After years of relying on bagged, triple-washed salad greens, this step makes me want to weep. There’s also a ton of prep: peeling, mincing, slicing and dicing, and often dirtying a variety of bowls, pots, and pans. A 40-minute Blue Apron meal often takes me close to an hour to make. That said, the results are restaurant quality.
Verdict: Sun Basket recipes were much simpler, but that’s reflected in the quality of the results. Blue Apron felt like a lot of work—but worth it.
Sun Basket: Meals include loads of colorful produce. When I made the Seared Salmon with Pearl Couscous and Salsa Fresca I ate the leftover salsa for days after the meal.
Blue Apron: Sometimes the amount of vegetables is stingy. One meal for four had a paltry eight ounces of string beans as the veggies. I practically had to use tweezers to distribute them on the dinner plates.
Verdict: Sun Basket for the win.
The Foodie Factor
Sun Basket: The meals were familiar and fine. Good weeknight food but nothing especially memorable. Steak and salad, salmon and couscous: I recognized everything in my Sun Basket boxes, though the green olives did have the high-falutin name Castelvetrano.
Blue Apron: These recipes really elevated my cooking to a new level (sorry, Giada). Maybe I don’t get out enough, but every dish I made was like a restaurant meal and full of new ingredients and flavors. For instance, I made Crispy Cod with Gai Lan (a type of broccoli I’d never seen before) and Yakiniku sauce, a Japanese barbeque staple, apparently. Totally yum.
Verdict: Blue Apron introduced me to new techniques and tastes— and I am grateful.
The Last Word
Sun Basket is a good weeknight option for those who value healthy, organic eating and avoiding the supermarket.
Blue Apron however, is like a cooking lesson in a box—it takes more work and you sacrifice some of the health benefits, but it gives you knockout meals that you could serve company.
Which meal kit do you like? Tell us in the comments below.
Give Sun Basket & Blue Apron a Try!
Here’s a great way to try Sun Basket and/or Blue Apron and support NextTribe at the same time! Click on one of the images below and you’ll be directed to the respective website where you can explore meal kit options, make selections, and purchase. When you make your purchase, NextTribe will receive a portion of the sale.
Enjoy cooking some amazing meals for your friends and family!